New TV show starring actors with cognitive impairments a hit with social workers

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A TV show called “Unforgettable Restaurant” (忘不了餐厅), jointly produced by Tencent Video, Hengdun Media and Cannes Film and Television, has recently become very popular with China’s social workers. The main characters of the show are Huang Wei (the store manager), Song Zuer (the deputy store manager), Zhang Yuankun (the assistant) together with five elderly waiters who suffer from mild cognitive impairments. They form an “unforgettable family” and jointly run a restaurant in Shenzhen.

The reason this show has attracted so much attention from social workers is not only the theme, but also the fact that social workers from Beijing’s Chenghejing (a centre that deals with caring for the elderly, and particularly those affected by dementia and Parkinson’s) were invited to get involved in the shooting.

Lai Xiaotong, who works at Chenghejing and has a Master of Social Work from Fordham University, in the US, participated in the preparations, recording and promotion of the show. As a representative of Chenghejing, he provided professional technical support regarding cognitive impairment. As Lai said, “participating in the recording of “Unforgettable Restaurant” made us feel nervous, but as soon as we saw the lovely old people, we forgot the tension, actively participated in making the restaurant’s environment more suitable for the elderly and training the staff and the elderly with cognitive disabilities to communicate with each other.

Before the restaurant officially began to operate, the social workers trained the five elderly actors in the cognitive functions that they would need to apply in the restaurant management, enhanced their ability and self-confidence and also tried to improve the relationship between them. Taking into account the high environmental requirements of elderly people with cognitive impairment, the social work team provided suggestions to make the environment friendlier for them. The social workers explained what the main communication difficulties and skills are for people with cognitive impairment, so that everyone could create an accessible communication environment and better encourage their active participation.

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